British government climate scientists are predicting atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide will hit record levels this year thanks to an incredibly strong El Niño.
UK Met Office scientists released a new report claiming atmospheric CO2 levels could grow by 3.1 parts per million, compared to the annual average increase of just 2.1 parts per million. That means El Niño could boost CO2 concentrations an extra 1 part per million.
“The atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is rising year-on-year due to human emissions, but this year it is getting an extra boost due to the recent El Niño event,” Richard Betts, scientists at the Met Office Hadley Centre and co-author of the report, said in a statement.
“Since human emissions are now 25% greater than in the last big El Niño in 1997/98, this all adds up to a record CO2 rise this year,” he said.
Scientists first began observing a rising trend in atmospheric CO2 at a facility in Mauna Loa, Hawaii in the late 1950s. Since then, scientists have said levels increased from 315 parts per million to more than 400 parts per million today — an average annual increase of 2.1 parts per million.
But this year’s El Niño caused CO2 to increase slightly more than usual, at 3.15 parts per million. In total, scientists say the average concentration of CO2 this year will be 404 parts per million.
“There’s nothing magical about this number,” Betts told BBC News. “We don’t expect anything suddenly to happen. It’s just an interesting milestone that reminds us of our ongoing influence on the climate system.”
Some scientists and environmentalists have been warning about rising concentrations of CO2 for years, saying more CO2 means more warming in the years to come. Washington Post writer Chris Mooney claimed the news is a “a grim milestone” for the climate.
Increased CO2 levels, however, have also been linked to increasing amounts of vegetation across the planet — a phenomena called “global greening.”
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has even reported on this global greening phenomenon.
NASA scientists found the “greening represents an increase in leaves on plants and trees equivalent in area to two times the continental United States.”
In another study, Indiana University researchers concluded the global greening phenomenon that’s been occurring over the last few decades is a result of increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere.
The study found a “consistent and statistically significant increase in the availability of soil water (11%) was observed under elevated CO2 treatments in both drylands and non-drylands, with a statistically stronger response over drylands (17% vs. 9%).”
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